News

Clipping wheels of speeders gets easier

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The Federal Way City Council approved a change in the neighborhood traffic safety program last month that makes it a little easier for roads located near schools and parks to qualify for traffic calming measures like speed bumps or stop signs.

Their decision — the second adjustment to the program in five years — came after weeks of testimony from residents living near Coronado Park, who regularly attended Council meetings to tell city officials their neighborhood was being ruined by, among other things, speeders flying up over the hill.

The night the Council made the decision, a handful of 21st Avenue Southwest residents testified they wanted relief from a similar problem in their own neighborhood. They told the Council about drivers speeding, sometimes side by side, down their road. City staff said they'd look into the issue.

The same week, traffic engineers held neighborhood traffic safety meetings in three other neighborhoods.

Of all the issues in Federal Way, speeding still tops the list of neighborhood complaints.

"By far, speeding and traffic are major concerns for neighborhood residents," Mayor Dean McColgan said. "Traffic-calming devices are really the only thing that can monitor a street around the clock. A lot of other items are priorities for police. It is a difficult situation."

Many residents seek relief from speeders under the city's neighborhood traffic safety program. Under the program, traffic engineers assign points to a stretch of road based on speed, volume, collision history and severity of collisions.

If the particularly stretch of road racks up at least 3.0 points, city staff hold a neighborhood meeting, explain the results of their analyses, recommend traffic-calming measures and ensure there's consensus among neighbors on what kind of devices to install.

Ballots are then sent to property owners and residents who live within 600 feet of the proposed traffic-calming measures and who have to use the road as their only access to and from their own homes.

If a particular area has 6.0 points or more, the balloting process can be skipped and city staff can go ahead and develop a traffic-calming proposal for the City Council to consider.

In 2001, about 20 neighborhoods called city staff to request speed bumps or stop signs on residential streets. That number doubled to 40 in 2002.

Today, Raid Tirhi, a senior traffic engineer in the traffic division, estimated the traffic division reviews about 50 neighborhood traffic safety requests a year. Other city departments, like public safety, also receive requests, some of which could be duplicates.

Tirhi suggested traffic problems in local neighborhoods are a result of natural growth in the city and the region.

A lot of local congestion is the result of commuters leaving Interstate 5 to avoid freeway congestion. Drivers take the exit into Federal Way and wind their way through the city along the main arterials to less-travelled roads.

But as the main arterials get clogged, drivers trying to get home in Federal Way tend to duck down side streets to avoid the congestion on the streets and at the intersections. As they pass through neighborhoods, they seem to accelerate to make up emotionally for the lost time spent sitting in traffic.

"It's moving arterial traffic into residential areas," Tirhi said. "Normally, arterial traffic is for drivers who are going faster."

When a critical mass of cut-through traffic starts inundating a particular neighborhood, or when residents in one part of town see the city install speed bumps in another neighborhood, the City Council begins seeing neighbors at the meetings requesting relief.

Tirhi said relief is on the way. In addition to installing traffic-calming measures on residential streets that qualify for them under the neighborhood traffic safety program, the traffic division is working to reduce cut-through traffic by making improvements on the main arterials to increase their capacity.

"The city is actively working to resolve the arterial level of service so capacity is available," Tirhi said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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